Lessons I learned in 2019 and what I’ve taken from them

By Clare Graham, Founder of Grumpy Kid

Clare Graham GrumpyKid Blog What I learned in 2019

In January & February 2020, we’re going to feature Guest Blogs written by amazing #amotherbrands on the theme of ‘Lessons I learned in 2019 and what I’ve taken from them.’ In these blogs, super impressive early-stage entrepreneurs who are mamas, blending life and work and learning as they go, will share what lessons they’ve learned in 2019 and how they hope it will inform them in 2020.

This blog features Clare Graham, Founder of Grumpy Kid, inspirational, mindful & positive merch for children.

GrumpyKid Feminist Tshirts

Lessons I learned in 2019 (and not just about the business!)

2019 was the first ‘full year’ of GrumpyKid, having launched the November prior. This year also coincided with me turning forty, so it was always going to be a busy year. This wasn’t insignificant, turning forty brought with it a new attitude and mindset that has helped shaped me, and the business going forward. But what did I learn that will help me in 2020?

Managing expectations:

Other than having a very clear mission with the business I didn’t really have much of a plan for 2019. There was one in my head and it consisted of buying new products and trying to grow Instagram followers. I realise in hindsight this lack of a plan wasn’t sensible. I think that because I still work full-time that the business would just ‘slot in’ and continue to grow- mistake. I have a much more solid plan for 2020 one for me, and one for the business, but hopefully they will come together in sweet harmony!

You need to look after Number One:

Having a business is like having another baby. There is an emotional attachment that never goes away, and sometimes, just like the kids, you just want to escape, be you again, with no one or nothing relying on you. But a business does rely on you, just like your children it needs nurturing and support and attention. This makes taking time for yourself nigh on impossible, but I think because of it, it’s moved way up the priority list. Because in 2019 I crashed and burned at least twice. My friends and I call it THE OVERWHELM. It deserves capitals because it’s that evil. It gets us all, well not this year buddy.

Set yourself (really, really) realistic goals:

One thing I have realised is that I always set the bar high. Too high. This year I am easing the pressure on myself giving myself realistic, achievable ‘To Do’ lists and trying to be realistic about how long things really take. I’m a mum of two with a full-time job and a full-time business… it’s time to give myself a break. It’s all part of my 2020 selfcare plan to keep ‘THE OVERWHELM‘ at bay.

Finding a tribe:

Early last year I signed up for an online course which gave me access to a private facebook group, full of mum-run businesses. Some of us then joined a separate Whatsapp group. This has been the single biggest win for me in 2019.

I am lucky I get lots of support from my family (I know some don’t, that’s a whole separate topic) but having a group of go-to people who are all in exactly the same boat as you, all mums, running small businesses, sharing skills and knowledge and sometimes just simply being there when THE OVERWHELM starts to creep up on you has been priceless.

I would recommend to anyone in the same boat get yourself out to local networking groups and join Facebook groups or make friends with people of social media. You never know when you might need each other and I can guarantee you will learn something new almost every day. The added bonus was that we all made a pledge to support each other at Christmas staying true to our own #shopsmall mantras.


Things I should have known but didn’t:

That people might buy more than two books from you and that it costs you a lot more to send a heavy parcel than what you charge for postage! Looking into better postage is on my ‘To Do’ list this year but it’s one step at a time.

I also learned that I rely too heavily on social media to drive sales. I don’t pay for Google Ads and my SEO is poor but I still got the odd sale from there, which made me realise it’s true potential. It’s next on the list.

Surprises along the way:

Every single sale! It’s not because I don’t believe in the business or think people won’t buy from me. But when that little ping comes through it genuinely surprises me. I immediately check what they have bought, and think ahead to how I will pack it, who are they buying it for? Will they tag me on social media etc. It reassures me that other people feel the same way that I do and that we truly are part of a mission. I can’t explain the feeling other than happiness and I don’t think I will ever get tired of it.

What do I wish I had known before?

I didn’t plan well at all for summer. I can’t be too hard on myself because it was really only year one but in the lead up to summer I had no summery stock (this was also down to there not being stock to buy that was relevant to GrumpyKid) so I had nothing to sustain the quieter summer period when everyone was away on holiday.

Best thing I signed up for:

If you are a retailer, integrate Klarna now. Don’t even hesitate just do it. If you don’t know Klarna I’ll explain. It provides online payment solutions for your customers. They can pay next month, pay in three instalments and best of all they pay you straight away, so totally risk free. It drove over 75% of my sales to store over the Christmas period. Gold dust and perfect for someone who still hasn’t gotten her head around SEO and Google Ads

GrumpyKid product flatlay

Top take way for 2020- trust your instincts:

Launching a business is scary. Especially when you have bills to pay and children to support. It’s not just a financial commitment it’s a time commitment and on that basis it’s not for everyone. Taking that leap of faith with all this going on around you is MASSIVE.

But turning forty recently I spent a bit of time reflecting on certain decisions I have made that became significant and why I now trust my gut as it’s served me pretty well so far.

Life decision 1:

Aged 17 I left sixth form college where I was doing my ‘A’ levels and joined art college to study fashion. I became a different (happier) person overnight…the tutor said I would be hard pushed to catch up on the work I missed but I did it. I went on to study fashion at University and after that I stayed in London for another 4 years but mainly because I was stuck in a relationship that was going nowhere.

Life decision 2:

I decided that my boyfriend was never going to change and that I wanted to leave London and go travelling. So I did. I cried on the plane. I cried every day for the first 3 weeks. I remember calling my mum from Thailand and telling her that I would fly to Australia ‘to see what it was like’ but I would be home by Christmas. By November I met Chris. He is now my husband.

Life decision 3:

When we got back from travelling I moved to Manchester where Chris lived. My parents thought I was crazy. I thought if it doesn’t work it doesn’t work. Thankfully it did! It’s strange to think that my children wouldn’t be here if none of these things happened and the business definitely wouldn’t be either!

Recently, a friend said I was ‘Ballsy’! I thought she was joking. However, looking back at all these decisions that I MADE ALL BY MYSELF, I bloody well am ballsy!

Go with your gut, even if it scares you, and if you are still doubting yourself, ask your tribe…the answer is always close to you.

Clare xxx

With many thanks to Clare for sharing the lessons she learned in her first full year of running GrumpyKid. What an enormous amount she has achieved alongside her full-time job! If you’d like to know more about GrumpyKid, please check out https://grumpykid.co.uk/or follow Clare on Instagram here or Facebook here.

Did any of Clare’s lessons resonate with you?

What were the key lessons you learned in 2019?

Let me know in the comments👇💕